Carrie Fisher, perhaps best well known as Princess Leia in George Lucas’ first Star Wars trilogy, has publicly acknowledged her struggles with addiction and bipolar disorder for years. Interestingly, Fisher, an accomplished screenplay writer and editor in her own right, even accepted an award in November for her public acknowledgment of her mental health issues, saying upon accepting the Utah Film Center’s Kim Peek Award for Disability in Media that instead of hiding from her disorder she prefers that she is “taking it on and flying in the face of it.” In fact, Fisher has produced and stars in a one woman show, “Wishful Drinking,” detailing her autobiographical experience with bipolar disorder and substance use.
Right now, Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark Segal is on a seemingly publicly-financed gay cruise using ad revenue from the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office to pay for his vacation, I assume under the dubious claim that his trip is a “business expense” because he will write a column about his travels with his partner as his recording secretary. Naturally, with 20,000 Philadelphians struggling with HIV/AIDS, this is probably the best use of the public’s money. Doubling down on the apparent complete breach of taxpayer and public trust, Segal gleefully wrote on his Facebook and Twitter accounts yesterday that he witnessed firsthand the “celebrity train wreck” that Fisher’s bipolar disorder created in her failure to successfully perform her one woman show, “Wishful Drinking.”
“Celebrity train wreck alert- Jason and I were on the RSVP Gay Cruise aboard
the Eurodamn (Holland America.) The last performance of the ship was special guest actress Carrie Fisher doing her one-woman show…She was incoherent, brought her dog on stage who continued to urinate and other bodily functions which she did not notice as she rambled and mumbled on. People just left the theatre. No real end to the show as they ushered her off. Princess Leia was a train wreck,” Segal gleefully wrote, seemingly channeling Michael Musto, Ted Casablanca, and, in this particularly cruel vein, Rona Barrett who is thankfully retired in California. Yet, because he is, grotesquely and insensitively, “reporting the news,” what Segal is doing, by I assume financing his travels with his business accounts, is perfectly within the letter of the law, albeit disgustingly tone deaf to the reality of LGBT Philadelphians and, frankly, completely out of line and disrespectful toward an actress and celebrity who has done a tremendous amount of good by potentially embarrassing herself through publicly acknowledging her own, all too common, issues.
So, in order to spend public money routed through the Philadelphia Gay News through an ethically questionable relationship with the Sheriff’s Office even though the PGN doesn’t submit itself to a third-party circulation audit and could, potentially, be blatantly lying to Philadelphia about its reach or lack thereof, Segal uses his vacation on this floating Norovirus bathhouse to ridicule and kick the mentally ill with substance issues. Consider that LGBT individuals, according to the American Psychological Association, “have higher rates of some mental disorders compared with heterosexuals.” Consider that LGBT youth are more than twice as likely to gravitate toward alcohol and drug use, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Consider that the LGBT community has instituted a campaign nationwide to assure young LGBT folks that “it gets better” and to not kill themselves prematurely because of depression, anxiety, and bullying, and then consider the cavalier gossip Segal tosses out under the questionable guise of “news.”
As an alcoholic, I still deal with the effects of my drinking days with regularity. There are some individuals who, like it or not, I will never be able to salvage a relationship with on account of my cruelty, manipulation, and egoism acted out while drunk. And, I lost my job at the William Way LGBT Community Center, rightfully so, because I was drunk on the job. Yet, while I have dealt with these issues and haven’t drank in years, and while I take personal responsibility for the effects of my own alcoholism and substance-related actions, I still, nonetheless, insist that my failings were commonly human, that they are not deserving of ridicule, and they certainly are not deserving of snide posts on Twitter and Facebook about being a “train wreck.”
Perhaps most bizarre and breathtaking is Segal’s complete lack of coverage of the Blondell Reynolds Brown fiasco where a sitting city councilwoman stole campaign funds in order to pay a loan back to a personal friend in order to cover a mortgage she cannot afford. In one case, we have an adolescent piece of gossip being wired back to everyone in Philadelphia. In the other, we have a newspaper unwilling to cover actual news in order to provide political cover for allies who are, at least according to the definitions of the City Ethics Board, woefully deficient in terms of personal conviction. In both cases, we have an obvious case of favoritism in exchange for narcissistic self-promotion and doing what is political expedient and garners attention over what is right and principled. This is the starkest example of what Mark Segal deems to be news: Carrie Fisher’s instability on a gay cruise; and, what Mark Segal deems to be irrelevant, a political ally stealing campaign funds; or, previously, what is best for Mark Segal, not the LGBT community, by giving the “city’s chief homophobe,” Segal’s exact words, former Mayor John F. Street, his paper’s political endorsement twice.
Even more, in countless conversations I’ve had with LGBT folks throughout Philadelphia, I know that I am the rule, not the exception. Whether it’s someone struggling with crystal methamphetamine overuse, someone struggling with alcoholism, or someone struggling with depression, our LGBT family, based upon years and years of stigmatization on part of heterosexual society and our own unique issues, most notably the disproportionate effect HIV/AIDS has on our brothers and sisters, works everyday to function in spite of the hand it has been dealt. And, while we do not try to afford ourselves a pass for our behavior and the inevitable ramifications of our, sometimes less than responsible, actions, we do request that our past actions, our poor decisions, and our tear-inducing tragedies are not lampooned in order to make a cheapshot or cute comment on Facebook. After all, life is hard, and none of us truly knows what we are doing; we are simply putting one foot in front of the other and trying our best. Society should not make it that much more difficult for LGBT folks to make the right decisions by laughing at our failings.
The least we can do is afford straight people, especially straight allies of ours, the same respect.
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